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QRA question

Old 1st Jan 2012, 06:15
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QRA question

Compliments of the season to all.
Without wanting to elicit any info that may be classified, purely out of curiosity I'm trying to understand what being on fast jet quick reaction alert in the UK actually entails.
Is a pilot physically seated in the aircraft in the QRA hangar, plugged into all systems for the duration of their `shift' with all essential avionics etc. powered up, ready to light the fire and get airborne - or is that only what happened during the Cold War?
There are some QRA videos online of Eurofighter Typhoons - but they seem a little unrealistic - pilots running to aircraft and strapping in - very WW2.
I would have thought that strapping into and powering up a Typhoon or similar fast jet would take several minutes at least.
I seem to remember accounts on this site from pilots who sounded like they'd spent several hours strapped and plugged into Tonkas in the hangar, just waiting... or am I mistaken...
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 08:59
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Is a pilot physically seated in the aircraft in the QRA hangar, plugged into all systems for the duration of their `shift' with all essential avionics etc. powered up, ready to light the fire and get airborne - or is that only what happened during the Cold War?
There are some QRA videos online of Eurofighter Typhoons - but they seem a little unrealistic - pilots running to aircraft and strapping in - very WW2.
Very WW2? That's the way it was throughout the Cold War!!

Alert can held either mounted or dismounted. The number of minutes depending on the aircraft type, also the length of time that the state can be held.

Mounted states are aircraft and crew intensive and not practical for QRA. Unmounted alert times are generally driven by how it takes the aircraft systems to come on line, simpler aircraft requiring less, rather than pilot reaction time.

During exercises, whilst parked on the ORP, the Hawk could manage RS2 with the pilot in a deck chair beside the cockpit, though RS05 was the norm. For QRA the Lightning held RS10, which was achievable with the pilot in bed in the Q Shed. (I believe that for the RAFG Battle Flight they managed RS05, though I never served there so cannot confirm.

When the F4 took over that slipped to RS15, mainly, IIRC, because of the time required to align the INAS platform.

A certain tanker aircraft could hold RS30 for about a week. When asked what the limiting factor was I was advised they would hold it with the crew living down the back and they'd have to go off state once a week to empty the toilets and restock the rations........
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 09:38
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Five minutes for Battle Flight at Gutersloh. Pilots sleeping or working dressed in their flying suits. Usually airborne in under thee minutes!

Those were the days!!!!
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 09:49
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ORAC
IIRC
It was RS10 for the F4 but the RS15 slip was for the Tornado F3. Don't think the Tornado F2 ever held QRA but I could be wrong.
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 09:49
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When the F4 took over that slipped to RS15, mainly, IIRC, because of the time required to align the INAS platform
The advent of modern [email protected] Inertial Nav Systems and embedded GPS (LINS/GPS or EGIs) reduced the time to react again - you can even align during taxy on some types.

"Mounted" is more commonly known as "Cockpit Ready" or plain "Cockpit". You can be called to "Cockpit" from a lower Readiness State (RS) - ie. RS30 or Readiness State 30 minutes.

I was once scrambled in the Falklands when on RS15 whilst in the shower - I ran to the jet in my long-johns with my kit in my arms and began getting it started whilst standing on the aircraft steps. We still made 15 minutes and were up to meet the inquisitor.

Happy New Year

LJ
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 10:48
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During the "Konfrontasi" in the Far East, it was impractical to hold CR on Javelin QRA for protracted periods, on account of high temperatures. FEAF decided that Readiness 10 was too long a reaction time, so there was a kind of Dutch auction, resulting an a crew-room state of Alert 7. It was unusual to take longer than 5 minutes to get airborne, though, whether the crew was awake or sleeping when the scramble was ordered.
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 10:53
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On a Certain Tanker Type, we held so-called 3 hrs from home. But that actually meant 61 min, because to hold a formal 60 min would be rather demanding of infrastructure, with some form of 'Q shed' accommodation needed.

It was certainly expected that we would be airborne asap if scrambled from bed at home. Called at 0-dark-00, throw on kit, 15 min drive to the aerodrome, then through the station and over to southside to climb in. Meanwhile the groundcrew would have the power set running etc. Start, taxy, airborne in about 40 min from deep sleep....

The best I recall is 7 minutes from scramble in the crew room, onto the bus to drive to 'RUST' where the jet was parked. Air Eng started the engines and powered everything up as everyone else strapped in. As usual though, the biggest delay was waiting for the INS....

Great days!

We also used the '20 min rule' - if you were reverted to a lower readiness state, it was prudent to wait in case someone at the ADOC changed their mind. This happened on one occasion; the crew was at 15 min sitting in the jet and asked for a Sitrep update. Ops queried the ADOC, who replied "OK, let them go!" - which Ops took to mean stand the crew down. Whereas actually the ADOC had meant them to launch! On another occasion we'd been called out - the navigator lived in Cirencester. By the time everyone was in, we were reverted to 3 hrs, so the navigator drove home without waiting. Just as he got home, his pager went off; he answered the phone to be told we'd been scrambed from 3 hrs. Back into his car and back to Brize only to see us taking off - we'd found another nav!

In the early days, if scrambled it was very necessary to get to the jet asap to avoid having your trip pinched by the Boss!

The standard from Brize was to turn at 500ft direct for Wallasey, climbing to about FL310, then pedal to the metal towards the play area. Some interpretation of 500ft was a bit liberal and after the late G**g M**K****n had, with the help of a strong easterly wind, managed to turn between Stn Ops and where the C-17s now live, we'd had a bit of a finger wagging from on high. Shortly afterwards, in the early hours of a hot, humid and airless summer morning we were scrambled with the Boss flying. The wind was just within limits for a downwind take-off on RW08(Short), so off we thundered at full power. Rather than climb at V2+20, he accelerated straight to min flap retract speed, then remembering the edict, waited until 500 ft before he turned...... (High ISA dev, tailwind, diurnal effect, shallow climb angle...) As a result, we roared over west Witney at rather low level, waking up most of Thorney Leys and the Windrush Valley Estate - a mate who lived in Thorney Leys later said that the 'sound of freedom' was quite indescribable! Radio Oxford's switchboard was jammed and the Stn Cdr wasn't best pleased. Strangely enough, no-one mentioned early turns after that....
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 11:47
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As we don't fly either type any more, it's safe to say that it was indeed 10 minutes for the F4 on UK QRA, 5 minutes for F4 Battle flight in Germany and 15 in the F3, although usually faster than that. The point about the INs is that they didn't require a full alight because they were aligned whilst putting the jet on state and then the paltform was locked in its aligned position so that it could be rapidly aligned during a scramble. We could keep certain parts of the equipment powered to reduce the warm up time.

The F3 had twin INs and took a little longer to warm up/spin up. The advent of Ring [email protected] Gyros did make a difference, but you were probably already at the point where getting the crew into the jet and the engines fired up was the limiting factor.

I was scrambled once in Ascension Island in 1982 where adrenaline took us from asleep to airborne in 3 minutes. I don't think I was fully awake until the gear was up! So Wideawake Airfield wasn't such an appropraite name after all!

Tartare, I'll send you a couple of links to my own description of QRA together with some old documentary film that should give you a good idea about it. PM to follow when I get a bit of time.

Courtney
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 11:47
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IIRC the FG1 at Leuchars did not have an INAS so that was not a factor. The FGR2 did have INAS but had options of a full align or a partial align, that latter of course being less accurate.

The F2 didn't hold Q. While at Coningsby the OCU worked up the F2 while the F4 would hold Q on rotation. Once Leeming achieved initial capability the F3 QRA was mounted from there rather than Coninsgby.
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 13:20
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The challenge in my day was in managing a '10' to airborne when in the middle of a satisfying bodily function with the immersion suit around your ankles. Yes, you lot, think what you will
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 14:11
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Yes, 'Q' in the VC10K was a lot more comfortable than in the F4! I recall being at home on 'Q' watching the same video I'd last seen when sitting around in a rubber bag in the Wattisham Q-shed at RS10. Plus we had the luxury of a galley and a bog - unlike the Victor mates. What did they do? Well, a certain Scottish Victor captain used the rations box for errr, an 'alternative purpose' on at least 2 occasions, earning himself the nickname of 'Wee Jock Poo-Pong McPlop'...!

(Apologies to those with tender post-New Year's Eve constitutions!)
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 14:22
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Early evening scramble whilst enjoying (well as best you could in a rubber suit) some sunshine outside the HAS. Already eating my second Magnum fresh from the freezer when the hooter went. For no fathomable reason my compatriot thrust his white chocolate Magnum at me whilst racing for the ac. Never to waste good food I force fed myself both ice creams as I charged up the steps.

The groundcrew did look at the creamy mess around my mouth with some suspicion but helped me strap in all the same. Checking in on telebrief went less well with a near frozen mouth. The response was on the other end was that they were prepared to wait if it meant that a sober crew could be found...

Ice cream to T/O in just shy of 5 mins.
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 14:22
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Correct, PN, the FG1 had no inertial nav, the FGR had an INAS (inertial nav attack system). There were numerous types of align available, two we used (Normal and Quick Action), the third was the one I think you mentioned, PN, which was the 5 minute align giving degraded accuracy due to a drift rate of 5NM/hour.

A normal align took about 12 minutes and was the most accurate at better than 3NM/hour. Clearly that was much too long for our scramble times. So for QRA we would use a quick action align which, basically went like this. When we put the jet on QRA we'd do a normal align and then store the heading, present position, etc, locking the platform (using the laps test button, strangely) so that it was effectively aligned.

External power kept the platform heaters on and maintained it at or above 35 degrees, with the INAS in standby. The aircraft could not be moved now. As the pilot started the first engine on external power the nav could start the QA align. Once the heading and present position were checked, navigator selected NAV and again used lamps test to freeze the platform. From there it took 85 seconds to be ready to go. Accuracy should have been the same as for a normal align.
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 14:23
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Tartare,

Two links to my description of QRA in your PMs.

Courtney
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 15:04
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IRRC the Lightning (Leuchars) experimented with RS 2 (mounted) from the ORP.
RS 5 (mounted) was usually from the Q shed, and allowed for taxying to the other runway (Ummm).
RS 10 was held from the crew room, but did not involve running unless your oxygen mask tangled in the front wheel of the ‘Q’ bike. We had a Landover after that!

There was also an odd RS for ‘real’ – Coltishall had detached to Binbrook during European tensions. This was similar to RS2/5 but spaced out around the airfield. Also, the T birds could stand one pilot down for ‘lunch’ etc, and have single pilot ops if required.
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 15:09
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The FG1 mates would frequently ask us for a position check if they had to leave the tanker and set off towards a Sov. unaccompanied. So, just for the hell of it, we'd often include a spoof second decimal in the decimal minutes value.....

Having completed my 500 hr pre-VC10K course on the F-4 , I held in Wattisham Ops for a couple of months whilst waiting for a slowing-down course on the woeful Jetstream. It was interesting to see QRA from a different perspective.....

....such as on the day we were quietly minding our own business discussing Page 3 girls (they were still pretty back then), beer and sports cars as you do when there was a sudden loud 'BURRRRRRRR' sound over the telebrief circuit. Which could have been a BMEWS alert.... We immediately flashed Bluntishead to ask WTF - they too were equally perplexed. Just about then, there was a breathless call from Q1 and Q2 stating that they were at cockpit readiness requesting scramble details. This had now become somewhat interesting!! Another flash call to the Master Controller, to advise that Q1 and Q2 would be scrambling in 30 sec to a fallback CAP unless he could hold them. Fortunately the MC approved holding them at cockpit readiness, then after a tense couple of minutes ordered them to revert to RS10. The Ops phone just about jumped off the hook when the DFC rang from the Q-shed to demand an explanation; I told him we were investigating, but that the ADOC had been mightily impressed by the speed of their reaction!

The cause? It seems that some GPO numpty had carried out a line check somewhere in the system, without having been given the usual approval. So the line had still been 'live' -and when he inserted his test signal, off went the alarm...

It certainly brightened up an otherwise dull day!
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 15:34
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Beagle,

I had something similar during a graveyard shift in mid-winter at CRC Boulmer back in the 80s.

Middle of the night (approx 2am), sitting on the bridge in my overcoat (the AC was designed for a packed bunker to cool the computers, night shifts were arctic) - the RINGO went off with RINGO25 without the test lights around the outside.

By the book I should haves scrambled the Binbrook pair and initiated a sector call out. However, with the world being quiet, and the weather being Red, I called the DC at HQSTC and asked him to check for a fault. Turned out a new Sgt had been experimenting with the comms patch panel.

The way I saw it was that, if I was wrong, in 10-15 minutes, it wouldn't matter, and 2 x F6 wouldn't really have made a difference, even if they found an open airfield in Red conditions to turn around for the manned follow-up attack. If I was right, it would save a lot of embarrassment and a possible headline on the papers.

I never heard another word about it, so I presume the DC didn't write it up, or if he did someone decided to let sleeping dogs lie........
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 16:40
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ORAC that leads to an interesting conversation in the early 80s regarding mandatory launch. One presumes launch with no safe recovery option.

The TACO said no problem, if the CinC said launch then launch we should. The Captain however, using his captain's prerogative said he would refuse a direct order from the CinC should the CinC issue the order.

It would have been an intersting discussion had it happened. It was quite interesting at the time.
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 16:49
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Just to clarify for those not in the know, QRA has three states. NORMAL does exactly what it says on the tin. RESTRICTED meant there was an issue that could cause a risk to normal, safe operations. That could be weather, engineering or diversion problems. So being restricted meant that we would only get launched for an actual intruder - no practice scrambles or the like. MANDATORY meant that something was badly wrong - again, weather or a serious engineering issue - and it was acknowledged that launching QRA may mean the loss of the aircraft or crew.

Oh, and BEags, we especially loved the spoof position checks. How we used to laugh when we were out of range of any ground station or nav aids and realised that we had just fixed the kit with the wrong present position. Ah, those chaps in their cozy tanker. We loved it!
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 17:01
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RINGO - that brought back memories from 20+ years ago!

The FG1 was limited to a basic Air Position Indicator, limited to inserting 2 sets of coordinates to (Base and Target) and inserting a manual wind velocity to feed the mouse that spun the cogs and dials that made the computations. No align required, just had to remember to switch it on during the take-off roll. We used to fly with a met pack, and used that to update the wind for the area we were (or after a couple of hours, where we thought we were) at the height we were operating (which could vary throughout the sortie). Thus lots of potential for nav errors, and as BEagle has related it used to be common practice to get a position update from the tanker and perhaps more importantly a wind check to compare with the met pack (and that leads on to another story, but I'll let somebody else who was at Leuchars at the time relate that). Of course, we also had a TACAN, but often useless as were were normally out of range working in the 'Gap', but the best navaid was the radar. Its pulse mode was powerful (certainly compared to the F3's), and a quick point of the nose towards the Faroes or Shetlands coupled with a bit of back plotting was a more than acceptable way of updating one's position. Would be interesting to hear from a Fleet Air Arm FG1 Observer's perpsective because their airfield kept moving during the sortie!

Twin INs coupled with the 'God's Eye View' in the F3 seemed a luxury having been brought up on the FG1 and the mod to fit LINS/GPS speeded up the align time and led to further improvements to airborne accuracy. I understand the move to RS15 was not due to Tornado F3, but because of the overall wider political situation. I stand by to be corrected, but I certainly seem to remember RS10 when I transitioned to F3 QRA.

We did run if required (or the older types would shuffle rapidly), but if the MC was on the ball, we would be primed to meet a launch time which was always good for the hearbeats and allowed a rapid bit of personal admin before flying for as long as it took. The first time I was down south with a RAFG crew (F4 days) with a call to cockpit, it was obvious that they sprinted to the jet, even through the tunnel and into a headwind!

One day I hope somebody writes the book! I might be mad, but I actually enjoyed sitting QRA, especially with the right team.
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